After reviewing Therion's new album. 'Les Fleurs De Mal' (here, I managed to catch up with Christofer Johnsson, the original founder and guitarist for the band. He was very agreeable and happy to give me a deep insight into the depths of Therion.
Initially I quizzed him on the band's beginnings and my total lack of knowledge of the band.
"You never even heard of a band being around for 25 years selling over a million CD's...? And you're from England? Do they have electricity and running water in the village you live in? ; D
"I was a 14 year old Metal head buying a bass guitar to jam with some guys. Got fed up with it after three months and decided I wanted to form a real band. I was then 15 and that band is what I still play in today.
"I'm an eccentric intellectual living in my villa deep into the forest where I also have my studio."
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Christian Vidal - Guitars:
The guitar wizard from Argentina. Well trained in music theory and can play odd sounding six-finger tapping that sounds weird and no one can play. He is also known as 'Closseau' due to him being a disaster in the mundane world.
NallePåhlsson - Bass:
The Swedish Bob Daisley. Oldest guy in the band. He will be 50 next year.
Johan Kullberg - Drums:
Meat and potatoes type of all-round drummer. He is very convenient to play with. Strong as a bull and a womanizer.
Thomas Vikström - Vocals:
Opera tenor and rock singer in one. Born showman and a womanizer.
Lori Lewis - Vocals:
Our American soprano. One of a kind classical soprano who has the voice and the true skills from the classical scene, but hasher heart in rock music. Dolly Parton trapped in fit opera diva's body.
Commenting on the beginnings, history and stages of the band's growth, I asked how the band have changed.
"We never played doom Metal. We started off as a band called Blitzkrieg playing some sort of noisy Heavy Trash Metal. Then we broke up some months and reformed the band under the name Megatherion, that just some months later was changed to Therion. At that point we played death Metal. With time we added on different types of elements to the music and after a couple of albums the death Metal had been bit by bit washed away. There were never any planning, it just happened that way."
Moving onto genres, I quizzed where he believes the band lies; 'mainstream' or 'underground'?
"There's something in between those two and this is where both Therion and most other bands not playing arenas are. We're signed to a big independant label and we play big clubs or small halls in Europe. In Latin America we play halls or even small arenas."
After being introduced intimately to the band I moved on to asking Christofer about the disagreements that were noted on the official website concerning 'Les Fleurs De Mal'.
"Johan and Nalle didn't quite get it in the beginning. Too weird for them. After all, they've played in a AC/DC sound-alike band (they were great actually!). Why make a cover album out of French girlie pop songs from the late 60s? Yes why...? Give me a reason why not? To me it just seemed the right thing to do and if someone doesn't get my crazy ideas, there's not much I can say to help.
"When the mix started to come together I guess Johan had started to understand what it was all about and in the middle of the tour, Nalle all of a sudden was saying 'I think I got it now, the thing with this French art project...' So in the end everyone's happy and like what we did.
When doing my research for the album review I was surprised to find out that Therion have been classed as one of the main founders of symphonic Metal with their album 'Theli' released in 1996 and his thoughts on this label, which he felt good about.
"Eeer, no we just made a weird album we expected no one to like, just like our previous four albums. Then all of a sudden we started to sell records and we started to influence a lot of bands."
Therion are celebrating their 25th Anniversary this year. I was intrigued to know how it felt to have reached this major milestone and how the time in this business has affected Christofer, the band and their members and if there was anything he would like to have changed during your career?
"I'm the only original member, so I can only talk from my own view. I'm wiser, older and more skilled. Other than that I'm pretty much the same happy chap.
"There are always things. Mistakes you do. But in general I don't regret much. I guess I would have signed up with Nuclear Blast in the first place if I could have done it all again."
Back to 'Les Fleurs Du Mal', the latest release (which in my opinion is fantastic), I wanted to know the influences, how the band found the recording process and why their label did not support the release?
"The images reflect the topics of three of the six poems by Baudelaire that got banned. It's a tribute to that.
"They didn't like it and there are complex copyright issues when you make a cover album. They wanted business as usual.
"It was of course a lot of work building up a label of my own in such a short time. But I've gathered quite a bit of know how over the years, so it went smoother than expected. So far the reults have been great, the album seems to be selling better than our previous album. I can't complain.
In respect to other symphonic Metal bands, Therion seem to have mastered the whole arrangement of the Classical/Metal instruments and vocals perfectly without them being being 'pompous' and overbearing, even a pure and folk sound on some tracks. I was very interested to see how he managed this.
"I started with just using two classical singers on 'Lepaca Kliffoth' back in 95. Then on 'Theli' I extended it to a choir.
"On 'Vovin' (98) I added a small string orchestra and on 'Deggial' (2000) some solo woodwinds and brass. On 'Secret Of The Runes' (2001) I used full orchestra and choir and by then I had learnt everything well enough to master it. I'm self-taught for most of it, the rest I got by reading two books I bought plus asking people.
"I would say it's not hard for me to learn, things that interest me I can learn easy (if I'm uninterested, I'm stupid as a rock to tech things)."
"We just did what was needed to turn them into Therion songs. A general idea was to show how close seemingly different music styles can be. To show that it's a lot in the cosmetics, that these old songs are not as different from the modern music we listen to as one may think."
With Therion completing their 'Les Fleur De Mal' tour during September which was marketed as an art project, I wanted to know what fans could expect.
"The big focus was to perform odd and never before performed songs live. You know, odd old songs that the fans never thought they'd hear live. For that sake we brought a keyboard player, so we'd be more flexible (normally we use backing tracks for orchestration)."
With 'Les Fleur De Mal' covered, I was interested to see what holds for Therion in the future and if they are again going to be covering something new.
"We will be making a rock opera next, that's totally different from how things usually are.
"We never plan what to do further than the coming project, so one can never say for sure. But symphonic elements has been a part of the band's sound to more or less degree since our second album back in 1992, so it would be hard to imagine the band without it."
I questioned him more on the rock ppera project and future touring.
"The rock opera project will take 5-10 years, so I guess we'll make a regular album again after that and promote it with a tour.
"We'll be touring with the rock opera a few years from now, but that's of course different from what we do normally and will only be the songs of that project. Meanwhile we'll be doing festivals and possibly some acoustic shows if the opportunity comes around."
With time running low, I felt very honoured to be able to gain a sneak peek into Therion and the brains behind it. I thanked Christofer and wished him all the best for the future.
For those of you who haven't checked them out, please do at http://www.megatherion.com/en/
. You may be very surprised at what you hear... I know I certainly was.